July 7, 2013

Colby College museum reopens as 'a major player'

The new Alfond-Lunder Family Pavilion was built to house more than 500 pieces of art valued at more than $100 million, an extraordinary donation by a Waterville couple.

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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"Old Man Playing Solitaire," a sculpture by Duane Hanson, circa 1973, represents an especially striking piece in the new Alfond-Lunder Family Pavilion of the Colby College Museum of Art in Waterville. The museum reopens to the public this week.

Photos by Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Colby College's $15 million Alfond-Lunder Family Pavilion, left, adds a sparkling new minimalist wing to the museum and brings contrast to a campus rich in classic red-brick structures. Inside, a three-story wall painting by artist Sol LeWitt provides a vibrant splash of color amid the glass- and metal-encased building.

Gordon Chibroski

Additional Photos Below

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'THE LUNDER COLLECTION' A GIFT OF ART TO COLBY COLLEGE

WHERE: Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville

WHEN: Opens with a private viewing Saturday and with a public viewing on July 14. On view through June 8, 2014.

MUSEUM HOURS: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday

HOW MUCH: Free

FOR MORE: 859-5600; colby.edu/academics_cs/museum

Their collecting regimen quickly expanded from antique-shop curiosities to serious works of art by some of the most famous painters in history. They began collecting European art, and settled on American art because it was more affordable and readily available.

"We always bought what we liked and what we were advised was great quality," Peter Lunder said in an interview, with his wife, at his Portland office last week.

Together, they amassed their collection over 30-plus years, and bought with the intent of filling their homes in Maine, Massachusetts and Florida with their purchases. Eventually, as the collection grew, the Lunders purchased art they knew would serve a teaching institution well. They knew early on they would give their collection away someday. They just weren't sure where.

Colby emerged as the leading candidate because of the relationship the Lunders forged first with Gourley and previous college administrations, and later with current museum director Sharon Corwin and college president William D. Adams.

Early on, they focused on a few artists and art styles they particularly liked -- Peter gravitated toward art from the American West, while Paula preferred paintings by Homer and other traditional American landscape painters. As they learned more about art, their tastes evolved to include contemporary art.

Corwin said the collection has significant depth in contemporary and late 19th- and early 20th-century American art. It includes a concentration of works by James McNeill Whistler, including two dozen paintings, watercolors and pastels, as well as a trove of etchings and lithographs by the artist.

The collection also has about 40 Chinese ritual and mortuary artworks from the Jin Dynasty.

Corwin has arranged about 280 pieces from the collection for this inaugural exhibition. It fills the two floors of the new wing dedicated to exhibition space, and flows into the older portion of the museum.

The show, formally titled "The Lunder Collection: A Gift of Art to Colby College," will be on view for almost a year. Like everything else at the museum, visitors will be able to view the art for free.

The museum reopens Saturday with a private event, then to the public from noon to 5 p.m. the following day with Community Day, which will feature family activities such as art-making, live music, museum tours, food and ice cream.

"We spend most of our life here, and we love Maine," said Paula Lunder. "Who better deserves the beauty and the knowledge that will be derived from this collection than our own Mainers?"

Although the Lunders gave their private collection to a private college, their philanthropy represents a very public gift, Corwin said.

"This is a gift to the college, to the community and to the state," she said. "I hope residents of the state of Maine feel real ownership. This collection is now part of the identity of our state, which already has a real legacy in the visual arts. This collection adds to that legacy, and enhances it in significant ways."

'A SPECIAL ROLE ... IN OUR SOCIETY'

Whether the Lunder Collection and the new wing change the arts landscape in Maine remains to be seen.

While Colby now has the state's largest museum and has long enjoyed a reputation for having an outstanding museum, it has never drawn huge crowds. In 2010, the year before construction began, the museum drew 20,000 visitors. By comparison, the Portland Museum of Art drew 13,000 visitors in May alone.

Corwin expects attendance will spike with the new wing, however. "I hope that people will travel here. I hope this museum will become a destination for visitors," she said.

Anne Collins Goodyear, co-director of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Brunswick and president of the College Art Association, said college art museums play a different role in communities than private museums such as the Portland Museum of Art.

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Additional Photos

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The Lunder Collection, part of which is displayed here on the main floor of the Alfond-Lunder Family Pavilion, totals more than 500 pieces and is valued at more than $100 million.

Gordon Chibroski

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The three-story wall painting, visible outside one of the glass walls of the Alfond-Lunder Family Pavilion at Colby College Museum of Art in Waterville, met with approval from philanthropist Peter Lunder. "They'll know there's a museum there now," the art collector said. "The (Sol) LeWitt (artwork) is drop-dead gorgeous."'

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Sharon Corwin, museum director and chief curator, expects attendance will spike with the addition of the new wing. "I hope that people will travel here," she said. "I hope his museum will become a destination."

Gordon Chibroski



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